Rough Start

Dear Benjamin,

Tomorrow you will be 13 months old.  With your 1st birthday approaching last month, I spent a significant amount of time reflecting on the past year with you, but mostly your first three weeks.  You had it rough from the very beginning.  You inhaled some meconium while you were still inside of my womb just before I gave birth to you.  Immediately after you were born a team of at least half a dozen nurses and doctors descended and whisked you away.  I didn’t even get a chance to look at your beautiful newborn face.  I quickly told your father to grab my phone and go over and take a picture of you.  Much later on, when I finally had the opportunity to look at that first picture taken of you, it bothered me so much that I couldn’t really distinguish the little features of your face underneath the oxygen mask.  A nurse brought you over to my bedside for a very brief two seconds, so I could at least lay my eyes upon you for the first time, before they rushed you away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

You were born at 10:32pm on a Friday night.  I wasn’t allowed in to see you until around 4:00am on Saturday.  The first things I noticed when I saw you were the large oxygen tube wrapped around and taped to your face, the feeding tube in your nose, the teddy bear shaped heart monitor electrodes on your chest, and the O2 saturation monitor wrapped around your foot.  I wasn’t even permitted to hold you at that time.  I felt helpless and all I could do was stare at you.  I felt so incredibly terrible as I watched you quiver with the shakes as you were withdrawing from all of the prescriptions that I have to take daily.  I took several photos of you while I stood next to you and gently touched your forehead.  However I didn’t feel like they were enough to capture those painfully delayed first moments with you.  So I took a video clip of you.  When I subsequently viewed the video and watched you struggling to breathe, and then shaking because of my medications, it just hurt my heart so much.

At the time all of that took place when you were born, I tried–I needed–to believe that what happened to you had a reason behind it that I’d eventually understand.  I felt robbed of that so very special and important time immediately after giving birth, when the nurse hands the newborn baby to his mother for the first time.  To have felt your head rest on my chest, your skin against mine, your little heart beating next to mine, your tiny fingers grasping mine…  Sometimes I try to imagine what that would have been like, but then I force myself to stop the second I begin to feel my eyes tearing up.  A part of me still feels sad that I missed out on all of those precious first moments with you.

I spent so much time during those first few weeks while you were in the NICU wondering if you even knew I was your mother.  You were fed and held by so many people other than me during that time.  I visited you every day for hours, tried to caress the top of your head through the hole in the incubator, yet I never thought it was enough.  I was sick with worry wondering if and when you were going to get better, and wondering when I could bring you home.  I can still remember how nervous I was the night when I arrived to “sleep-in” with you at the hospital the evening before I brought you home.  I was fearful that you would cry because I was the one taking care of you all night and not the nurses you had spent so many nights with.  That night was my first time actually alone with you.  I was able to close the door of the room, and hold you until you were sleeping peacefully.  Finally there were no machines constantly chirping, pumping, and beeping.  It was then that I began to feel the simple things that all new mothers do… wondering if your cries were because you were hungry, or needed to be changed, or were tired.  I cherish that night, it was a wonderful small gift on the way to becoming your Mum-Mums.